Friday, May 24, 2013

The Surgeon

I take the knife and cut deeply. Not so long ago I was much more timid, much less sure. But now my hand knows better how to bear the instrument it carries. I only pierce those who I know I can help to heal. Judgment has become more clear, and skill played out with more definition and determination. I have come with the purpose to bring better life. Unfounded opinions often push weight as to who and how, of treatments that they want or need, desires of what I should do or not do – but they cannot sway my decisions. I have to do what I think is in the best interest of my patient. I will only intentionally harm those who I believe will eventually be helped by the weapons that I wield. There are those who are too sick, those whose bodies I cannot help with the blade. Or some whose condition surpasses what I have been trained and equipped to aid. There are those who are beyond me.

But there is One who’s cut is always beneficial, though often undesirable. His incisions are able to bring eternal healing. But like every surgeon, His incisions initially bring pain. However He has no limitations, as do the hands of men. His judgment is flawless and His skill perfectly precise. It is a strange thing that He would want to wound His own. We often don’t feel like we need or want His work performed on us. We are satisfied. But He sees that there is infection, impurity, and rottenness in places that we have closed our eyes to. He knows that the tumor must be cut out in order to heal us. He breaks us, bruises us, harms us. And sometimes we wonder why. How could the One who has claimed generation after generation to pour His love on us treat us this way? How could He allow this, when He could have stopped it? We cry, broken hearted and low in spirit. But just after He has closed the wound, the healing begins.

Time after time He breaks and heals. We feel His love, and then it seems He lets the pain in. We wonder if He left us? Did He take the shelters of His mercies away? At first confusion seems to be overwhelming, but over the years He teaches us to trust Him as He treats us. He knows our disease, and He understands the best and worst within us. We begin to see Him as the Healer, not the hurter. Our pain and loss still bring their familiar twinge, but our eyes are open to see His character behind His hands. He wounds us deeply, because He loves us greatly. He refuses to leave us sick and dying while His hands hold the cure for our ailments. He is determined to restore us to Life. He has made a Way to bring us out of death and into life, and then to shape and make us into what we were supposed to be.

Uh, I don't think it's supposed to come out that way

The phone rang just as I was finishing up a bite of lunch. “Transfer from a health center. Hand presentation of a second twin.” I told them to prepare for a C-section, and that I was on the way. So I got there just a few minutes later. I thought I’d check, just to be sure that the hand wasn't sitting beside the head and able to be pushed back. So I put on my glove and pulled up the cover – but no exam necessary. The whole arm was out between the mothers thighs. She was having to be careful not to sit on it. I rushed to help get her moved to the stretcher, knowing that there could already be damage to the nerves in the neck and arm from the amount of stretch allowing the arm to extend so far outside the uterus. I also was thinking of how at any moment, a slight movement of either the mother or baby could clamp off the umbilical cord’s blood supply and it could all be finished for the baby.

So, we shuffled her onto the stretcher. I held the bag of IV fluid and squeezed it tightly to make the water inside flow more quickly into the veins. I always enjoy that part of transport, squeezing the bag as we rush the stretcher to the OR. It gives me a sense of excitement and urgency. It also gives my nurses that same sense of urgency (which can often be difficult to muster from within them), when I am right over top of them with the bag held high. Things move much more quickly. I yelled in that we needed to go “now, now” as I gave the stretcher one last push through the OR doors. The words “this is an emergency” have been used so often that they don’t sway to pressure or stress as they ideally ought to do, but “now, now” seems to convey it and get a better response. I threw on my rainboots and a plastic gown (necessary accessories for any C-section due to what can be a big gush of amniotic fluid around baby and the whole yucky mess of baby poop, blood, fluid, etc all combined – gross, huh?).

Out she came, awkward and floppy appearing as she lay there for a moment while I clamped and cut the cord. I told the midwife to get ready to resuscitate as I handed off the lifeless appearing blob of a baby. Within a few moments, little cries began to be whimpered from over in the baby warmer. Ahhhh, what a beautiful sound. Attention always turns to the baby, everyone’s attention but mine that is. At this point it is routine surgery for me, baby is out and it is time to put mom back together again. Sew her up, watch to make sure there are no more areas of bleeding and no unforeseen injuries, and then, done. I congratulated her as I passed by to leave – “Thank the Lord for two new babies”. Indeed. Thanks Lord.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Not Dead Yet

Second case of the day. Spun around to tie myself in my damp green cotton OR gown. I looked at the two scrub techs getting the instruments ready. I thought, “Why two?” So I asked, “Which of you is learning?” They laughed, “We both are”. So I asked again, “Ha, ha, no, one of you has to be in charge in order to teach the other one, who’s in charge?” One said that he was “in charge”. Incision time. I cut. No one else did anything. Hmmm. “Dab”, I said. A few minutes later I looked up at them and said, “You weren’t joking when you told me that both of you were learning, were you?” No was of course the answer. “How many C-sections have you scrubbed on” was my following question. One had never been near a C-section, the other had seen a few. It was a long operation, full of “dab”, “hold”, “do this”, etc.

When it is time to get the baby out, the assistant usually has to help push on top of the mom’s belly. Well, nothing was moving and I felt like I was struggling all alone. Then I realized that I actually was struggling all alone. I had told the primary assistant where to put his hands (on the area of baby’s bottom on the outside of the mothers big belly), but in disregard of my instruction, his hands were fully pushing on mom’s chest. “Wait a minute there fella, we aren’t trying to learn CPR here” is what I wanted to say. But alas I held back. I repositioned his hands and we tried again. Things weren’t going well. I asked for the forceps (big spoons that are usually used in vaginal deliveries, but sometimes I use them in difficult C-sections too). Unfortunately, all I got was a blank stare from everyone in the room. I directly looked at the midwife and forcefully told her to get me the forceps. She knows forceps, right? I mean, she watches me use them, so she should, right? She must have been scared because she ran off for a moment, only to bring back a little hand held hemostat type instrument. Again I held back from the sarcasm that was tickling the tip of my tongue. It wasn’t time for talking, I had to get the baby out. So I kept working and said that those instruments didn’t seem to have any way to help me get the baby out, and that I was asking for the delivery forceps. Maybe louder would help, “DELIVERY FORCEPS!” I could tell that we weren’t getting anywhere. So, I took the scalpel and cut a bigger incision, leaned my whole weight on the abdomen, and brought the baby out. Whew! Then came more of the same “hold this, dab here, help me see over here”… Finally we were done. Throughout I joked with my two “learners”, but also told them seriously that they had to scrub with someone who was a bit more experienced than each other in any of my future cases. As I finished up, I popped off my blood covered gloves into the trash bucket, looked at them both, and had a good laugh as I said “Ha! You guys tried to kill me, but you have failed!”

They might not have killed me, but I surely did feel a bit beaten up. I would say it was the biggest comedy of errors of any case here, but unfortunately similar cases are all too familiar. Thankfully this one I could see with some humor, sometimes I feel the weight of frustration without the fringe of a laugh. Oh mercy, I think I getting old and tired from the stress. Bless the Lord, at 3:30pm it is finally lunchtime! I do love lunchtime. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ascension Day??? Is that really a holiday?

Ascension Day. Who would have known that it’s a holiday. But here it is indeed. I was thinking of it last night while scrubbing a sink full of dishes. A song kept ringing through my mind that says, “He’s coming for a pure Bride…the Lord is coming for His Bride, make way for the Lord”. Suddenly my heart beat a bit faster, and a smile touched my lips. What an awesome day to celebrate for sure. Most who wander across this post will probably realize what the words mean in the song. But just in case – God frequently has used the analogy of Himself as a bridegroom  and His people as a bride. He loves us deeply. However, He definitely is marrying down. His bride has often been foolish and has chased after other things in spite of His great love. But part of becoming a Christian is that He begins turning your heart toward Him again, away from the things you used to chase after, towards purity… Well, for the sake of time we have to move on quickly. After Jesus died and rose again, a short time later He ascended to heaven. But with His leaving was a promise that He would return for His “bride”, His church.
Considering a pure bride brings lots of thoughts to mind. Bridal magazines filled with the soft, flowing, white dreams of so many. But really most of the time a white dress is only like a shell representing purity, but with something of filthy dirty things inside of the person wearing it. But that isn’t the kind of Bride He is coming for. His bride may not be all fancy and polished on the outside, but He is making her glorious within. I look inside my own heart and mind, feeling the guilt for a moment of what it must be like to stand as unholy and unclean with all the junk inside. But then I delight to think that how He sees me is made new. His word says that He is making all things new through Christ. Pure and right and blameless. Not what we were before. And not due to our own effort of trying and trying and trying, but because Christ has lived and died for us, and now pleads on our behalf to the Father. He changes us from the inside until finally, finally it is seen in outward ways.
Anyways, as I celebrate this day that I have never corporately celebrated before, I rejoice to ponder the reality that the Lord really is coming for His bride. As was His promise, He ascended, but will come back in similar fashion to claim His bride. Delighting to make way for the Lord.

…as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27

 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19: 7-8

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sowing Seeds

We are in the middle of rainy season. It is amazing to see the bright green coming up all around. It is almost like it is too bright to be the real color, as if it has been photo enhanced. What were tiny seeds only a month or so ago are now taller than my head. Where paths were so clear and wide, now the underbrush and grasses have nearly covered them over. I look across farms planted on the steep hillsides, so neatly hand plowed and birthing plenty of green lushness in tidy rows. It is a reminder of how we sow something only small with hopes that it becomes much greater. As I gazed at all the growth, I remembered something that I wrote some years ago while doing mission work in another area in Africa. I thought I would share. 

They know that the rains will come, the shoot will sprout, and they will greet yet another harvest. They sow these promises into their fields with great hope and expectation.

So we too sow our seeds. We hold them in our hands and place them in the earth of our lives, hoping that something great will come of them. We walk our paths hoping that "now" will impact "then". So, hold your marriages wisely. Plan in these years to love in such a way that leads to love overflowing after 20 more years have passed. Look at the children who God has placed in your hand. What you do with those seeds now will bless or curse generations to come. What skill do you bring, or relationship do you have, or gift do you hold that you can "sow"? Whatever path you find yourself on, whatever people who cross it before you, know that these moments are the seeds before you. If only for a moment, or if for a lifetime, consider how to plant them in the soil. 

For you see, we farm the field of Another. How weighty should it be to us to know that we plant in the fields of eternity. That the Giver of life, even our own, has trusted us to display His glory by the work of our hands. He only asks us to work the field, it is He who gives the seed and brings about the harvest. It isn't the ingenuity of the farmer that counts here. His seeds will bear just as He has desired, fruits of many diverse kinds. We labor with all our might in adoration for the One who has brought us to farm. Only He though, can bring food from the earth. 

Lord, bless these seeds, bless the harvest, that through them we may bring glory to your name. 

From Mark 4   
And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows - how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."